The only place online (besides T & S, of course) where I hang out is a message board for homeschoolers. The place is fascinating to me because it overcomes one of the biggest (in my opinion) disadvantages of Internet life: people with widely varying viewpoints are talking to each other over there. We all school the same way, but in addition to your evangelical Christians, we have every other flavor of Christians, non-religious types, Jews, Muslims, pagans, etc.
Sometimes the fur does fly, but for the most part, it is a pretty civil place. I admit that I enjoy eavesdropping on the kinds of conversations between coreligionists that I don’t think I would normally get to hear. For example, a woman recently posted asking for advice: Should she suck up what she didn’t like about her current church, or should she move her family to a new church? (Not a conversation one would likely have in front of an LDS friend!)
The responses were interesting and varied; here’s one that caught my attention, from ‘Melinda in VT.’ She saw the following as signals that it was time to move on:
“* Feeling I have to hide how I really feel or what I really believe in order to conform to the majority opinion
* Children being regularly taught things I don’t agree with/Feeling I have to deprogram the kids after church
* A persistent feeling of not being spiritually uplifted in church “
Well, sheesh, if I used that criteria, I’d be sleeping in and joining the Presbys for Starbucks next Sunday.
I exaggerate, but only a little. For the most part, I don’t have problems with (1) and (2), although (3) is a constant struggle, especially sacrament meeting with young children (but I think that’s a universal).
We don’t use her standards, of course. Our criteria is simple: you go to the Church with the true doctrine and authority. And if your political or social beliefs are a little out of the mainstream, you squelch them to avoid contention. If your kid has a weird Primary teacher, you make do and be sure to have FHE and scripture study so that they are taught what you want them to be taught. And if you aren’t spiritually uplifted, well, it is your own fault. It’s up to you to be prepared and active during a lesson to have a spiritual experience.
I have no real question, complaint, or brilliant conclusion here. Just, once again, the realization that it is far more than doctrine that divides us.
Oddly enough, I too spend most of my online time on a homeschooling message board. I went there initially to get advice on a homeschoooling issue, but stayed around both for the political discussion and to gain an understanding of how evangelical Christians think. The board is run by a company that sells a very open-minded curriculum from an evangelical Christian viewpoint (almost a contradiction in terms), and consequently is dominated by evangelicals. (I figure it’s not the board you’re talking about, Julie, since there’s no member named Melinda in VT).
I’ve seen several discussions of the type you describe, Julie, and have come away with similar feelings. One reason I’m interested in understanding how evangelicals see the world is that in general, I feel comfortable disagreeing with someone on an issue as long as I feel I can understand why they think and believe the way they do. I like to be able to say, “Well, if I thought the world worked like X, Y, and Z, then I would probably think A, B, and C like so and so does.” I find that I have a hard time understanding the X, Y, and Z that makes evangelicals think A, B, and C, and so I have a hard time understanding some of the positions that they take (speaking in broad generalities here).
One of the foundational issues that I’ve come to understand better is what the word “church” means to different people. I remember one of our neighbors who had recently been church shopping asking us how we found our church, and not knowing what to say. No matter where we may go in this wide world, we know what “church” we are a member of, to the point where we can call upon members of our local congregation to help us unload the truck before we’ve ever met any of them. I live near a major medical center, and have had several opportunities to give priesthood blessings to members from other parts of the country who have come for specialized treatment, a connection made possible because we are members of the same “church.” It’s taken me a while to realize that most of the rest of the Christian world doesn’t work like this.
I would have to agree with Bryce on this one. My parents are Presbyterian, and there are dozens of Pres. churches in our city. None of them are they same. They all seem to lack a fundamental connection. This is one of the reasons I used to be against organized religion.
All my experiences with organized religion seemed to illustrate how unorganized it was. I figured it was just best to believe what you believed. But I always knew that if there was one true God and Jesus was his christ that the true church would have to be world wide.
I feel very lucky to have found the LDS church and my testimony is stronger than ever. I sometimes disagree with specifics issues and persons but I know the doctrine binds us together.